Note: Zane asked that Dad complete his training update, since he has returned to college!
It feels good to have passed my sophomore phase of college. I have really learned my guide work cammands and stopping where I am supposed to stop for my handler. Even with lots of distractions, I am doing about 75% of my commands without getting distracted. Then I passed the test while my coach was blind-folded executing all my commands while being distracted. I was feeling like pretty hot stuff!
Phase 6: Advanced Training - Buildings, stairs and more!
Well, that feeling of being HOT stuff quickly dissipated when we began entering big buildings with lots of stairs and doorways and elevators, oh my.
Our coaches first introduced us to working in buildings and targeting doorways, stairs and elevators. I had no idea that we had to learn so much. But a few days of clicker training and great kibble rewards, I learned when it was appropriate to stop at a doorway to ensure that my handler had room to clear.
Then we started going up and down stairs and this was very tricky. I wanted to just take off and run down the stairs, but I had the instructor hanging onto my harness and I had to go up and down these stairs at a pace that would not make them fall. You should try that some time, it's not that easy!
And next were elevators. No problem, right? We just walk up to these HUGE doors and wait for them to open. And then we had to march across this crack in the floor and make it inside before the door closes on our tail. This took me a few tries to learn to do this, but I finally got it and I was always ready to get out of that elevator without too much prodding.
The biggest challenge of all for this phase was learning intelligent disobedience. Is that an oxymoron?
Initially, the instructors started with narrow clearances and taught us that we should not continue our guide work until the handler found the obstacle and praised us which acknowledged that the handler was aware of the obastacle. Now to be clear, we could not move foward even if instructed until we were sure that the handler was well aware of the narrow passage.
After passing this specialized disobedience training, then we were prepared for a more advanced level of disobedience around traffic issues.
Phase 7: Traffic Training
As a member of the Junior class, the training was now getting more intense. We now embark on traffic conditioning and training. You ask, what's a traffic check? We learned the following: when crossing a street and a vehicle makes a left turn in front or at you; when walking down a street sidewalk and a vehicle backs out in front of you; when walking down a sidewalk and a parked car starts up and may potentially back up; when crossing streets and someone turns near you or crosses the street at the wrong time.
We had to learn about all of these and how to respond by turning to the side or pulling our handler back to clear safely or putting our head in front of the handler and not moving. We would repeat this process for days until we passed 100% of the time. There could be no errors in this training.
We did most of our training in San Rafael with some work in the neighborhoods. In addition to this very crucial training, we also began to do some overhead training, which means we have to be aware of tree branches that hang down and can whack our handler in the head. Also, signs or other low hanging obstacles are very important for us to learn that they are there and we should stop or go around them if it was safe to do so.
Phase 8: Escalators & Subways & Trains
After passing those tough tests, we moved forward to learn escalators, subways, trains, buses, etc. When we were introduced to escalators and learned the technique for riding them and exiting safely, we also had to learn to wear those funky booties on our feet. I felt like a Budweiser Clydesdale horse, since I was a high-stepping dog.
When getting onto the escalator, the handler would approach the moving stairs and when I was ready, she would say, "OK, let's go!" I would jump onto the moving stairs and try to stay put while she was holding onto my leash very tightly. I watched as she would put her hand onto the moving hand rail to be ready when it flattened out which meant it was time to exit. She would say, "Ready, Ready, Let's go!" I would then leap off the moving stairs and land safely outside in the hall. Boy, was I happy to be off that moving monster!
Plus I would give a little high-stepping dance to acknowledge that I had safely made it. We also learned how to go from the escalators to the subway platforms and operate safely getting on and off the subway trains. I have used this training a lot with Dad when we are traveling through airports. I really appreciate this training. The one big thing we learned on the subway platform was to be intelligently disobedient when asked to move forward when that would take us closer to the path of the train. NO WAY! I'm not moving over there!
If all that was not enough, we learned to work on sidewalkless streets in the neighborhood near the campus. I know that sounds kinda funny, a sidewalkless street. That's just what it was. A street that did not have sidewalks so we had to move in and out of parked cars. Dad and I use this a lot where we live in Denver. We live on a sidewalkless street.
Wow, I am tired just sharing all this stuff we learned in our Junior phase. I passed again, but this phase took about three to four weeks to complete.
We are almost cooked! Stay tuned as we get close to meeting our new partners.